If you haven’t heard about the napping transit worker who was caught on TwitPic and the firestorm of controversy that ensued, there’s a lesson to be learned: it only takes one tweet to capture you a moment that kills your personal brand. Which got me thinking about another medium that quickly spreads: email.
All of your emails, messages and written communications become permanent touchpoints for your personal brand. You don’t know who will end up reading it: someone may invisibly bcc a colleague, forward on your message or even accidentally read over it over the intended recipient’s shoulder. No matter the case, follow the five rules below to demand respect and ensure your emails positively reflect your personal brand.
1. Simple is better. Have you ever written a sentence and then said, “What I am really trying to say is: ‘xyz?’” Forget the complicated wording and just say xyz. Strive for clarity. Avoid complexity. Always look back to see what you can cut out before hitting send.
2. Anticipate questions and provide answers. People are busy. Save everyone’s time by anticipating and preemptively answering questions that might arise. The less Jennifer Co-Worker has to come back for clarifications, the more time she has to do her job. Help her by providing more than enough information in case she needs it.
For example: “Jen, I just finishing taking notes on the guerrilla marketing tactics PDF (www.guerrilla.com/pg2.htm) you showed me on Tuesday. The notes I took outline some new tactics we might be able to use. You can find the notes, called ‘New Guerrila Tactics.doc’ here: http://companyx.com/internaldocs”
Notice what I provided Jen:
- The day Jen showed me the PDF, to jog her memory in case she forget what article I was talking about
- The URL of the PDF, in case she wants to take a look at it again
- The content of the notes I took
- The name of the document containing my notes
- The location where I uploaded the notes
I have just saved Jen and myself a lot of time by providing that information up front. I answered any potential questions she could have before they popped up: what article are you talking about? Where did you upload the notes? I eliminated potential back-and-forth emails that would waste both of our time.
3. Avoid common mistakes that make you look dumb. You’ve heard this one before, but a surprising number of people still don’t do it. Spell check! Don’t just scan the document and call it a day. Let your computer’s spell-checker do the initial dirty work. After confirming the changes, re-read for mistakes such as using “too” instead of “to,” “effect” instead of “affect,” or “you’re” instead of “your.” See CopyBlogger’s 5 Common Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb.
4. Take a moment before responding to angry emails. One of the virtues of a professional is the ability to remain calm under pressure. If you receive a nasty email, stop for a minute. Imagine yourself one year in the future, looking back at how you responded. Did you remain poised? Or did you weaken your personal brand by lashing out? Responding to an email in hotheaded haste will make people think you are disrespectful – a label that’s nearly impossible to remove after it’s been given. Also keep in mind how easy it is to misinterpret the emotions of an email. Text can only convey words, not feelings. The person at the other end might not have been angry at all, even if it appeared that way on paper.
5. Communicate frequently. Send thank you emails immediately after meeting new people. Ask your superior questions. Provide articles your co-workers will find useful (but don’t spam them with pictures of cats). Use frequent and strong communication to progress within your company.
Communication skills are essential to your personal brand. What’s your philosophy on writing emails? Business is about people talking to people. Make sure when others talk about you, they’re mentioning the aspects of your personal brand you want to be remembered for, like clarity, simplicity, level-headedness and professionalism.
Pete Kistler is a leading Online Reputation Management expert for Generation Y, a top 5 finalist for Entrepreneur Magazine’s College Entrepreneur of 2009, one of the Top 30 Definitive Personal Branding Experts on Twitter, a widely read career development blogger, and a Judge for the 2009 Personal Brand Awards. Pete manages strategic vision for Brand‐Yourself.com, the first online reputation management platform for job applicants, named one of the Top 100 Most Innovative College Startups in the U.S.